Sketchcrawl in Monreal

Last Sunday, Í took the train to Monreal in the Eifel to meet up with a group of sketchcrawlers.  We had all been on drawing / watercolour courses locally with Heinz Zanger, who had organised the day and we had arranged to meet on the Alte Brücke at 11.00.  After a week of wishy-washy weather and a misty start to Sunday, the day became beautiful with clear blue skies over a glorious golden Eifel. A colleague says that when he goes into the Eifel, it is as if time moves more slowly.  I also get this impression – it is a great place to switch off.  Autumn is a bit more advanced than in Bonn  – it is chillier and more trees have turned than by the Rhine (not particularly discernible in the photo below!) but it is gorgeous in the sunshine.

Here is a somewhat over-exposed view of Monreal castle that I took when I first arrived. Most of the village lies behind the trees…

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We installed ourselves beside the Eltz Bach with a good view of the bridge and we must have stayed there for about four hours although it felt like half that time.  The only actual “crawling” we did was from Cafe Plusch to the river and back again at the end of the afternoon!  This was drawn in an Artifolk A4 sketchbook.  I buy this online from the UK.  The paper is 200 gsm and good quality sketching paper, which will take a wash without buckling. 

While Heinz Zanger started drawing, I sketched the group from behind:

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Monreal is a pretty village and has won many awards, including prettiest village in Germany in 2004.  It is the sort of place that is found on biscuit tins and boxes of chocolates, which is why we had selected it as a place to draw.  However, I discovered that this does not make it easier to draw: quite the opposite.  Capturing its essence without resorting to kitsch or caricature is very difficult.  I had hoped that my drawings would reflect something of the character of the village (full of lovely Fachwerkhäuser – half-timbered houses – with red-brown beams, lots of odd angles, bulging walls and “off” verticals) but this was quite a challenge!  Had I stayed with the finerliner and not used colour, perhaps I could have pulled it off but once colour was added….  Half-way through Heinz Zanger commented on my “marshmallow picture”!  I grimaced but he was right.  I should have brought a browner pencil with me rather than the bright red one I used… He lent me his watercolours and I attempted to darken the beams.  The final picture has improved a bit but I am not very happy with it.  However, the perspective is quite good and the house just beyond the bridge really does bend to the left as the river bends (the river could be more river-like)…One or two verticals are bordering on caricature…  This was drawn in an A5 Hahnemühle sketchbook, across a double page. 

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In particular, I like the second house from the right, which is this bit (below).  The beams look more impressionistic, are darker and have more character:

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Here is a photograph of the wider scene taken after finishing the drawing.  Two artists are still hard at it…

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Today, is a bank holiday in Germany (Deutsche Einheitstag / Reunification Day). I used the time at home to try and improve upon the drawing above.  Drawing with Derwent Inktense and some neutral Coloursoft pencils, I used the drawing as a base for proportions and also used the photo reference with the intention of reducing the marshmallow factor…   Below is the outcome.  I have misjudged the shadow on the chimney in the middle distance and I see now, as I post this, that I omitted the statue on the far side of the bridge.  We absorb more by being there…  A4 Artifolk 200 gsm sketchbook. 

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The bright red has been toned down but, curiously, it is a more sterile image, flatter and too tidy.  It has lost the quirkiness of the original, which I now like more than I did on Sunday.  How odd…. I’m beginning to think that I did capture a sense of place after all but it took another drawing to compare with the original to see that.

While waiting for the others to arrive in the morning, I had begun a pencil sketch of the street which leads up from the river.  I just had time to work on it a bit more and add colour.  I had not thought the composition through and, in a desire to omit the car park behind me and to my left, I sliced an ornate lamppost down the middle!  The white building on the right has a curious roofline.  The first attempt produced an odd perspective – the building seems to twist away from the viewer. A4 Artifolk 200 gsm sketchbook.

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I tried adjusting the roofline later at home and it is slightly improved.  The white building seems more stable but is still not right. I also added a little more colour to the sky to try to project the building towards the viewer and I cropped the image to bring it closer. The roofline on the far left should slope away much more than drawn (see photo below) – why do I only see these things when loading them on to the blog? –  although the photo itself seems somewhat distorted (?).

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Here is a photograph of the wider street scene complete with car park.  Look up – what a gorgeous afternoon!  We finished it off with wonderful Apfelstrüdel in Cafe Plusch.

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